Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby Thoughts

Any mare can foal at any time...those immortal words from (I think!) "Blessed are the Broodmares". As the post title suggests, I've been thinking about ones, that is! My lovely Teke mare, Annie (Anastasia) is due to foal pretty soon and so we've been getting the foaling stall ready, dreaming big dreams and trying to figure out when she'll pop. From past experience, she'll pick the most inconvenient time (for me), which means next weekend, when I'm supposed to be at Klickitat Trek. The timing works out too, as she'll be within 2 weeks of her due date, so the baby will be ready to be born. We'll end up making the decision whether to go or not based on what she looks like this week. Right now, I'd say I have between 1 day and 2 weeks, depending on many factors. Mares foal when they foal. I know some lucky people whose mares would foal on exactly the same day of pregnancy year after year. Not so for me. I've had them foal at 318 days, I've had them go past the magical 340 days. In the end though, as long as mama and baby are ok, the rest is just horses.

Why the worry, you ask? Why not just let nature take it's course and wake up to a happy, bouncy foal one morning? Well, most of the foalings here at Cascade Gold have gone without a hitch, but there have been several that if I hadn't been there, the outcome would have been grim, including 2 of Annie's. Most likely, fescue toxicity has been the culprit in most of my troublesome foalings, but at a certain point, you can't do much more. One year, all three mares that foaled were red bag deliveries (most likely the fescue) and one foal ended up not surviving. I won't even go into the vet costs! The mares had been off any sort of pasture for months, on forage that couldn't have fescue, but it didn't matter.

So, why go to all the trouble of breeding and foaling out horses? Well, being a breeder is kind of a calling. I try to produce foals that are better than their sire or dam or both. I very carefully match up horses to (hopefully) minimize faults and maximize excellent traits. It's worked pretty well so far, and in general, I think I've produced horses that improve on at least one parent. There have been some heartbreakers, but over the years, we've done pretty well. There are so many variables that seeing a horse you bred and raised doing well under saddle is a major achievement.

My absolutely favorite part of the whole process is the week before the mare foals. In that week, you can see the end of all your years of hard work culminating in the perfect foal ; perfect conformation, perfect sex, perfect color, perfect temperament. Once the mare foals, you have what you have. But that week before...better than Christmas any day! Running out to the barn to check on 'weird noises' and 'she was restless'. Even sleeping in the barn when you're pretty sure the time is close. It really is a time of wonder. I never get tired of it. Once the baby is born, that is amazing also. This young life, ready to be gently guided into being a partner for some lucky person. Foals know nothing about what we expect of them, so every interaction is so important.

I'll post photos and blog when the baby comes. Right now, it's a buckskin filly.

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